The Jumbos were the winningest sports program among more than 400 colleges and universities in Division III last year, taking home the Learfield Directors’ Cup for the first time
Tufts University’s athletics program has won—for the first time—the prestigious Learfield Directors’ Cup for NCAA Division III for 2021-2022, topping more than 400 colleges and universities in this national competition.
The Directors’ Cup is awarded to the athletics program with the most broad-based participation and success in postseason competition, and the victory highlights the wide array of high-performing teams and student-athletes at Tufts.
“This is a really exciting day for Tufts Athletics. Winning the Learfield Directors’ Cup reflects a total team effort, and we are so grateful to everyone who helped us achieve this goal,” said Director of Athletics John Morris.
“Academics come first at Tufts, so it’s especially gratifying to win the Directors’ Cup during a year when our student-athletes delivered a 3.6 all-team GPA and more Academic All-NESCAC honors than ever before,” he said.
The Learfield Directors’ Cup is a joint program of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and USA Today. Points are awarded based on each institution’s NCAA tournament finishes in up to 18 sports.
Tufts won this year with an overall 1080 points, followed by Johns Hopkins, Middlebury, and MIT. The Jumbos’ previous best was the third-place finish in 2016-2017. Tufts’ win ends a streak of seven consecutive Directors’ Cups won by Williams College.
The Directors’ Cup rankings are divided into three sports seasons—fall, winter, and spring. As of the winter standings issued in March, Tufts was in second place, more than 220 points behind Johns Hopkins.
But the spring sports season saw Tufts overcome that large deficit to top the list for the entire academic year, led by the NCAA tournament second-place finish in women’s lacrosse (90 points); men’s lacrosse and men’s tennis making the Final Four (both 83); and strong showings by women’s tennis (64), softball (64), and women’s rowing (64).
“This is an amazing milestone for Tufts Athletics and our student-athletes, coaches, and staff,” said Ted Tye, A79, A06P, A13P, a member of the Board of Trustees and longtime chair of the Athletics Board of Advisors.
“We have been dedicated to building highly competitive teams as part of the Tufts student experience,” he said. “While we have been near the top of Division III nationally for several years, winning the Directors’ Cup is an incredible accomplishment.”
Courtney Shute, the head coach of the NCAA runner-up women’s lacrosse team, said that “Tufts is truly a place that exudes inspiration, seen in the hard work of the student-athletes, coaches, and athletic administration.” She added that her team’s success “is a reflection of that hard work and most importantly the relentless work of the student-athletes in our program, past and present, who have built a culture that is equal parts competitive and fun.”
After the hiatus in athletic competition earlier in the pandemic—there were no Directors’ Cups in the preceding two academic years—student-athletes were eager for this season. For the Jumbo swimmers and divers, it had been two years since they had competed for a conference title, and “it was amazing to see our athletes respond to having the opportunity again,” said Adam Hoyt, head swimming and diving coach.
“Our women had a historic season, capped off with our first conference title and first NCAA titles—individual and relays—while our men swam and dove great, finishing runner-up in our conference and sending many to the NCAA championships,” he said.
In the fall, the Jumbos had five teams qualify for NCAA competition, out of eight possible fall sports counted by the Directors’ Cup.
The women’s volleyball team and the men’s soccer squad both reached the NCAA Elite 8 and scored the most Tufts points (73) for the fall. Women’s cross country had another strong showing (ninth) at the NCAA race and added 70.5 points. Field hockey advanced to the NCAA Elite 8 and scored 70 Directors’ Cup points. Men’s cross country was awarded 44 points for their 30th-place NCAA finish.
In the winter sports season, the women’s swimming and diving team placed seventh at the NCAA championship meet to score 72 Directors’ Cup points. Women’s indoor track and field was close behind with 70.5 points scored for their eighth-place NCAA finish.
Women’s basketball advanced to their 10th straight NCAA Sweet 16, which earned 64 points. “I am incredibly proud of our team for earning an NCAA Sweet 16 berth this season,” said Jill Pace, head coach of the women’s basketball team.
“It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get to that point,” she said. “Every one of our players stepped up to play an important role at different moments during the season, and it was inspiring to watch each player take ownership of their role.”
In addition, the men’s swimming and diving team tied for 21st nationally for 52.5 points, and the men’s indoor track and field Jumbos scored 42.5 points for their NCAA tie for 31st.
“Our talented Jumbo student-athletes were incredibly thankful to return to competition this year, and they worked so hard to excel and make the entire Tufts community proud,” said Morris. “And our dedicated coaches and staff deserve tremendous credit for creating a culture in which student-athletes can thrive academically, athletically, and socially. This award also reflects the outstanding support we receive from President Monaco, our campus colleagues, and our many loyal and generous alumni, parents and friends.”
Paul Sweeney, director of Athletics Communications, contributed to this story.